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TDSB hears from parents about concerns over school safety

Parents and students met with members of the Toronto District School Board as well as the Safe Schools and Engaged Communities Steering Team on Tuesday night, in the first of two community forums to discuss a new four-point plan aimed at building safer schools.

The forum is part of an independent review into the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Grade 12 student Hamid Aminzada, who died after trying to break up a fight at North Albion Collegiate in September.

The 19-year-old, who was an anti-bullying activist, was stabbed in the face and abdomen after he tried to break up a fight. He later died in hospital.

“When such a tragedy happens it’s really important to stop, to reflect, to look and see what are the policies, what are the procedures, what programs do we have in place and how can we improve them,” explained Karen Forbes, a former Toronto board executive superintendent and member of the Steering Team.

Parents and students gathered at David and Mary Thompson Collegiate in Scarborough to discuss their concerns over school safety with the panel, including how to deal with bullying and the need for more security and hall monitors in schools.

“Hearing directly from the community is an important part of this review and is critical to the Panel’s report,” TDSB director of education Donna Quan said in a statement. “I look forward to their recommendations on how we can continue building on the progress we have made in creating safe and caring school environments within our school communities.”

The Toronto District School Board created the three-person safety review team in October 2014 to look into school safety. Along with Forbes, the team includes former Toronto deputy police chief Kim Derry and community engagement expert Sharifa Khan.

After speaking with hundreds of teachers, police, parents and students, the review team is now focusing on four key aspects of school safety — crisis response, safety in schools, environmental factors and community engagement.

“We do believe that the recommendations we’re going to make will have an impact and potentially save lives,” said Derry.

A second community forum will be held at Thistletown Collegiate in Rexdale on Thursday night. The information gathered at the two meetings will be incorporated into the final report, which will be released in March.